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Top Air Force legal officer questioned over suicide death of servicewoman

18:48 August 24, 2022

SEOUL, Aug. 24 (Yonhap) -- The Air Force's chief legal affairs officer was questioned Wednesday by an independent counsel team looking into the military's handling of the suicide death last year of a female noncommissioned officer who was sexually assaulted by a male colleague.

Brig. Gen. Jeon Ik-soo appeared before the office of special prosecutor Ahn Mi-young in Seoul in the afternoon. The team, launched this June, is probing into suspicions surrounding the death of Lee Ye-ram, including whether military officials attempted to cover up the case.

On Tuesday, the investigators questioned former Air Force Chief of Staff Lee Seong-yong.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Jeon Ik-soo appears before the office of independent counsel Ahn Mi-young in Seoul on Aug. 24, 2022, to face questioning over the military's handling of the suicide death of MSgt. Lee Ye-ram in May 2021. (Yonhap)

Jeon's office oversaw the Air Force's initial inquiry into the death of the female master sergeant affiliated with the 20th Fighter Wing.

She took her own life on May 21, 2021, after claiming she had been molested by a male superior of the same rank.

She previously reported the assault to authorities on March 2, but the Air Force prosecution conducted no interrogation of the suspect, even after her death.

The defense ministry-affiliated prosecution took over the case in June 2021 and indicted a total of 15 people, but none from the Air Force legal office.

Jeon was booked at that time on charges of dereliction of duty and abuse of power in connection with the mishandling of the case.

Last week, the independent counsel team arrested an attorney on charges of manipulating audio recordings, which a human rights group unveiled in November, claiming they contained Jeon's order that the suspect be investigated without detention.

In December, the assault suspect was sentenced to nine years in prison by a military court, but it was commuted to seven years by an appellate court in June.
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